Tea ceremony a cultural treasure
Among the various goods transported on the "Silk Road on the Sea," one item may be said to have been unique to China, i.e., green tea. Tea was grown in southern China. Tea cultivation began in Zhejiang during the 3rd century AD. During the Tang Dynasty, the local tea plantations fell into two regions, eastern and western Zhejiang. The western Zhejiang producers included Changxing, Anji, and Wukang counties under Huzhou, Lin'an, Yuqian, and Qiantang counties under Hangzhou, as well as Tonglu County under Muzhou. The eastern Zhejaang producers included Yuyao County under Yuezhou, Mingzhou (modern Ningbo), Dongyang County under Wuzhou modern Jinhua), and Shifeng (Tiantai) under Taizhou.
Meanwhile, the art of making tea gained currency gradually, with the Jingshan Temple in Yuhang under Hangzhou being regarded as a sacred place for the tea-making art. As the temple grew tea and the monks were fond of drinking this liquid, tea-making and serving customs such as tea feasts and assemblies were developed there during the Tang Dynasty. By the Song Dynasty, tea making and serving evolved into tea contests to taste the variety and quality of teas. Jingshan Temple held regular tea assemblies and feasts at which Buddhist scriptures were discussed. Jingshan was famous for the flavor of its tea and the spring well water with which to make tea. Later on, a new way of making tea was developed by which tea leaves were crushed into powder to be soaked in boiling water. This style lasted for several hundred years during which rituals and ceremonies for making and serving tea and holding tea assemblies, feasts and contests were gradually formalized as part of the Buddhist rituals.
Since China's economic and cultural exchanges with foreign countries were frequent during the Tang Dynasty and especially during the Song Dynasty, large numbers of Japanese monks came to China to study Zen of Buddhism. Zhejiang was their focal destination and they progressed to Guoqing Temple on Tiantai Mountain, Tiantong Temple of Ningbo, and Jingshan Temple of Yuhang. When they took Buddhist scriptures back to Japan, they also took tea and tea culture that was closely related to Buddhism. They gradually developed their own tea culture -- Japanese tea culture and tea ceremonies can be said to have their roots in China and in Zhejiang in particular.
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